Sunday, October 30, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck (movie review)

George Clooney, writer and director, and Fred Friendly in this film, takes us back to a world of monochrome TV, excessive smoking, and people trying to stay sane (which is why the film is timely, and why the packed audience applauded at the end). It's a film about courage and integrity. Mom loved it.

A theme here is television might be used more effectively to wake people from their soaps and sitcoms and give them a bigger dose of reality. However, those trafficing in "reality" seem prone to paranoia and keep taking us into nightmarish episodes. Maybe more politicians should be watching Rome or Extras on HBO, instead of inflicting their twisted brand of theater on the rest of us. Maybe we need more quality fiction, not less. We could make it "reality fiction" -- like this film.

A couple years ago I rented the Ed Murrow vs. Joe McCarthy tapes from Movie Madness, having been too young to appreciate these events at the time. Last night I took the new projector over to Larry's house, where he shared Thirteen Days, about the Cuban missile crisis, one of his favorite films (I shared eXistenZ, one of mine). My reaction to these "great game" scenarios (ongoing): why should such a tiny cast get to arrogate so much power to script world events?

If an apocalyptic showdown between "great powers" is what turns you on, just rent the DVD. Either that, or think of some better role playing games, with more interesting and constructive props.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rambling On

I missed much of the Wanderers meeting today at the Linus Pauling house, as I had a routine doc appointment (my annual physical). I got back for the tail end of a rambling discussion of the Israel-Palestine situation, the Canadian health care system, the tax advantages of S- corporations and so on.

We didn't have an organized presentation today.

Jim brought fresh-picked chantrelles again, $15/lb. at the local grocery store. I reported on Don's communications from Guatemala (so far so good). Patrick's wife might present on supercomputer applications in a few weeks (she used to work for Sandia).

In today's Oregonian (page D1): Google gives a $350K grant to PSU-OSU to for development of open source software (Google uses a lot of it, including Linux, Apache, Python and more).

This evening, I drove mom down to the AFSC-organized reading of soldier and civilian names, American and Iraqi war dead. I was glad to reconnect (however briefly) with local staff I've worked with (Alice, Marco, Pam). I brought some decaf to the Metcalfs, MMM stalwarts, who were holding the Quaker sign. Bruce Huntwork sat next to me for awhile. A few hundred showed up, in the park between City Hall and the Federal Building. My camera fell out of its case onto the bricks, but didn't break (yay).

I'm making rather slow headway in Quake 4. Les, recently back from China and Korea, would no doubt have finished it by now.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Shopping Trip

Friend Andy Cross of MMM invited me to join him on a trip to Fry's Electronics this Friday morning, a big box vendor in Wilsonville that used to be named Incredible Universe when owned by Tandy (Radio Shack). I sometimes call it Mecca, given its importance in my reality, and how often I make the pilgrimage. That no doubt sounds sacrilegious to some, but I figure electronics engineers have done God's will at least as effectively as priests (not that these are mutually exclusive occupations).

Andy was picking up a whole new system (a Sony desktop). I grabbed an internal DVD burner (16x +/- R, 4x DL, 5x DVD-RAM) for like $45 including mail-in rebate. My first backup was only 1x (very slow) but I don't think the new device was to blame (I was off having a beer -- next time I'll monitor more closely). I considered the more expensive Plextor, a brand with a loyal following, but unlike some Pentagoners I don't insist on gold plating.

I also bought Quake 4 for $37.99, a choice some Quakers will question. Like, what's a pacifist like me doing with an M-rated game ("Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language")? I'm actually OK with mythical mayhem. I'm this Marine fighting Strogg, with all humanity united behind me and my buddies depending on my prowess in battle. Thankfully it's only a simulation, as I die often.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Back to Work

Following that fun vacation to McMinnville and environs, I needed to get back to various projects simmering on my metaphorical stove (my real electric one has 4 burners, only 3 usable, plus a working oven).

Front burner: Sam Lanahan would like to meet Ken Snelson, given Flextegrity is entering the patent literature in close proximity to Ken's and Bucky's work As a software engineer, I'm suspicious patent abuse will gum up the works, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize good literature. Patent libraries are goldmines for historians of engineering.

Ken phoned me re my recent email proposing Sam and I fly out for a visit, just as I was going into a meeting on another high priority project: keeping the flow of clinical data to my health mission client uninterrupted, as we transition from vendor A to vendor B in the cath labs over the next few months.

Project 3: the RBF-LW bridge, a work in progress in philosophy world (I'm a critical path manager on this one).

Project 4: wiring more synergetics into K-12 CS-informed math (CS = computer science). I need more help from television on this front. Geometry lends itself to communication by that medium -- looking forward to more in high def TV and DVD. My work with Russ (he just sent some new EIG files) comes under this heading.

And last but not least, Project 5: preparing to teach Python in a Portland Public School (a 9 week stint, not counting school holidays and vacations).

... other projects, too numerous to mention, will need to go unlisted at this juncture (I read a lot of blogs, journalism and stuff, watch some TV, but that's more play than work, plus doesn't pay the bills).

Precessionally (tangentially, thinking more in terms of side effects), the above projects are also about putting 4D Solutions on wheels, in a bizmo, e.g. when I go on the road more, I'll still need to VPN into client networks, do source code editing and such (which reminds me, I need to stop writing in my blog and do some more POV-Ray renderings for Sam 'n LaJean).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

From Evergreen's Airplane Collection

Photo by K. Urner

Per our tour guide: the MiG's guns pointed upward 15 degrees for some reason, so the way to avoid being shot at was to fly very close to the ground. If you were shot at anyway, because the MiG was chasing you upside down, the pilot was probably Russian.

Our Hotel's First Manager

Portrait of Tom White
photo by K. Urner w/ Olympus Stylus 500

The inscription on the wall next to this painting reads: "Tom White gave life to the hotel in 1905 and guided it through its initial quarter century. A bit of a Renaissance man, Tom was well-read, a devoted member of the Masons, and very active in community work. He was an excellent cook, a skilled carpenter and loved working on his farm."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hotel Oregon

Dawn and I did a retreat at Hotel Oregon recently. That's in the small town of McMinnville, in the heart of some wider sprawl engineered by a freeway- and mall-minded culture. We stayed in the first manager's bedroom, Tom White's. Yes, another Mason, like many departed in McMenemin's world. We learned of more Masons at the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove on another visit.

Then we visited the Spruce Goose and friends, at Evergreen Aviation. Our tour guide and former F4 pilot was none too pleased his bombing mission got canceled that day Hanoi Jane was in town. Fonda's visit recalls the early days after WWII, when the OSS thought Ho'd be a fine leader of a Jeffersonian democracy (Ho thought so too) if only the French empire would pull back, which it eventually started doing (Japan's empire had already been pushed back, thanks in part to this new US-Vietnamese alliance).

Then LAWCAP (e.g. Dulles & Dulles) decided to rebalance the powers by joining forces with former enemies Germany and Japan, now vanquished and ripe for rebuilding (see JFK by Col. L. Fletcher Prouty). In Vietnam, the "quiet Americans" (Capitalism's Invisible Army) started taking over, to fight an Evil Empire. Thus began WWIII, or the Cold War as they called it, in which many more millions would die, especially in Southeast Asia. That was before the Grunch came along (e.g. Fuller & Co.) and another rebalancing.

Evergreen also has an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, which could read license plates and sense where the bodies of migrant farm workers were buried in California. Very cool. Its competition, the U "shot down" 2, is still in service, exposing miles of film to targets of interest.

I especially recommend the Hotel Oregon's rooftop pub and restaurant (we took the stairs, but there's an elevator somewhere). Park in the 2-story garage opposite the police station on 5th. And be sure to check out the Mack Theater directly across 3rd street to see what's showing. Dawn and I saw Junebug.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Corpse Bride (movie review)

Many critics declaim against this movie's supposedly shallow plot (my wife included), but I figure the secret to this fairy tale is to see but one bride and groom to be, and the projections they go through.

The girl thinks maybe a parasitical money-grubbing a-hole is out to get her, like the one that broke her heart before, but this new guy seems different.

The new guy, meantime, is your typical morbid poet, worried about death and decay, and how this gorgeous girl is also this amazing like dead thing, i.e. so absurdly physical.

So yeah, the marriage rehearsals leading up to the real deal are seemingly interminable. The projected parental marriages aren't very encouraging either. I can see where some young folks might pause for thought before tying the knot.

Like Robots, this film is all about a look, and that look ain't just window dressing or something irrelevant. No, that's a looking glass look, a fun house mirror, a lens -- an artifact storytellers have worked on and polished, and handed down across centuries. Many proud artists, many forgotten graves.

The musical numbers: also strictly by the book.

There're only so many ways to do macabre, and make a funny family flick at the same time (Addams Family is another). This way works. Please accept my gratitude.